What Else Is In Your Food?

Twenty five years ago, It was largely assumed that the health benefits in foods came from the vitamin and mineral content of fruits and vegetables. That conclusion turned out to be incorrect because supplementation with specific vitamins and minerals failed to yield the same health benefits as did diets rich in fruits and vegetables. In addition, use of individual vitamin and mineral supplements was found to increase health risks in some studies. So what else was in the foods themselves that made them “healthier” than others?

The subjects of many current studies are plant chemicals known as phytochemicals or phytonutrients. Phytochemicals are not considered essential nutrients because deficiency diseases do not develop when we fail to consume them. They are considered to be nutrients however, because they are biologically active and perform health promoting functions in the body. Most of these bioactive food constituents are derived from plants. 

Phytochemicals play a variety of roles in plants as they provide protection against bacterial, viral, fungal infections; Ward off insects; and prevent tissue damage due to oxidation. Some operate as plant hormones or participate in the regulation of gene function, while others provide plants with flavor and color. Recently, more than 2000 types of phytochemicals that act as pigments have been identified and give plants with a wide variety of colors. Some of these phytochemicals have been identified: beta-carotene (orange), lycopene (red), anthocyanins (blue to purple), allicin (white), and lutein (yellow-green). Many of them function as antioxidants.

The following are examples of vegetables you can buy or plant in the garden that provide some specific health benefits that are thought to be due to either established nutrients or phytochemicals. Keep in mind that some have more research behind their claims; however, many do not and simply rely on presumed health benefits.

  1. Kale is a member of the cabbage family and is known to contain vitamins A, K, and C, as well as essential minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium. It is also rich in fiber and acts as a prebiotic that increases nutrient absorption in the gut. Kale also contains antioxidants that protect against oxidative damage and chronic disease. Its nutrient density exceeds that of other vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, or those of the onion family.
  • Onion have been known for their healing properties for centuries. One study compared wound healing results after the daily application of onion gel and found that scars were significantly less noticeable after just four weeks of use. Recent research has suggested that onions contain compounds useful for the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and inflammatory diseases. Most of these benefits can be traced to onion’s high concentration of sulfur amino acids,  phytochemicals such as flavonoids, phytosterols, and saponins – compounds that have anticancer, antibiotic, and antithromboitic activity.
  • Potatoes are a rich source of potassium, fiber, vitamin C. Little attention is paid to potatoes recently due to their high calorie density and their relationship with obesity and diabetes. If they are eaten in whole form and not as French fries or chips, they can be healthy due to their high potassium content. Often, they are the only source of potassium for many people including children. Adequate potassium can protect us from hypertension. P
  • Tomatoes contain the phytochemical, lycopene, the carotenoid responsible for its red color and acts as an strong antioxidant. An increased intake has been associated with a decreased risk of prostate and breast cancers.
  • Cauliflower in both forms, white or purple are high in phenolic compounds (a phytochemical) and antioxidant. Purple cauliflower is especially high in anthocyanins and is an potent anti-inflammatory and antiviral compound.
  • Bell Peppers are antioxidants that may protect against Alzheimer’s disease. Green, yellow, and red peppers are all high in phenolic compounds and vitamin C.

So, the secret of healthy and colorful fruits and vegetables lies in the fact that they not only provide essential vitamins and minerals, but that they also become protective against the chronic diseases of aging that have become the leading causes of illness and death in the developed world.

Bon appetit!!!

Important Facts about Vitamin B12

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By Sally J. Feltner, MS, PhD

Vitamin B12 is often overlooked as to its importance to human health. Vitamin B12 is needed for the metabolism of another vitamin, folate as well as fatty acids to maintain the insulating layer of myelin surrounding nerve fibers. When myelin degenerates, neurological symptoms occur that include numbness, tingling, memory loss and disorientation. If not treated, it can eventually cause paralysis and death. On the other hand, a deficiency is rare, but can be a public health concern due to marginal B12 status due to either low intake or problems with absorption as often found in the older adult. This deficiency may also occur in people who attempt to practice a strict vegan diet as this vitamin is found almost exclusively in animal products.

The absorption of B12 from food requires adequate levels of stomach acid, intrinsic factor (produced in the stomach) and pancreatic secretions. Even though it is a water-soluble vitamin, the body stores and reuses it more efficiently that it does other water soluble vitamins.

Poor absorption of vitamin B12 can result from a condition called pernicious anemia. It is an autoimmune disease in which the cells in the stomach that produce intrinsic factor are destroyed. Therefore, B12 cannot be absorbed due to a lack of intrinsic factor. The anemia can be treated with injections, nasal gels or oral megadoses. The injections and gel bypass the GI tract and thus there is no need for intrinsic factor. Megadoses can allow adequate amounts of B12 to be absorbed that then do not require intrinsic factor.

Vegan diets are a concern due to B12 found only in animal foods. Severe deficiencies have been found in breast – fed infants of vegan women and marginal  deficiencies for all vegans if supplemental or fortified foods are not consumed in the diet.

What You Need to Know At A Glance

Primary Function:

  • Helps maintain nerve tissue.
  • Aids in reactions that build up protein tissue.
  • Needed by normal red blood cell development.

Consequences of deficiency

  • Neurological disorders (nervousness, tingling sensations, brain degeneration
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Elevated blood level of homocysteine (increased cardiac problems)

Consequences of overdose

  • None known.
  • Excess is excreted by the kidneys and not absorbed.
  • B12 injections may cause a temporary feeling of heightened energy.

Primary Food Sources

  • Fish, seafood
  • Meat
  • Milk and cheese
  • Ready to eat cereals

Highlights and Comments

  • Older people, those with previous stomach surgery, and vegans are at risk for deficiency.
  • Some people become B12 deficient because they are unable to absorb it (pernicious anemia).
  • Vitamin B12 is found in animal products and microorganisms only.

Source: Smolin, Lori A. & , Grosvenor, Mary B. Nutrition, Science and Applications, Third Edition

Judith E. Brown, Nutrition Now, 7th Edition

The First Dietary Guidelines 1980

The Old, The New, The Truth

Soon, The Dietary Guidelines for 2020  are due to be released.  As usual, there will be a flurry of discussions, debates, praise and criticisms somewhat dependent on what sections of the food industry are happy and those who are not.  The Dietary Guidelines, in my opinion, reflect who won the battle for the food industry’s interests this time around, to make sure their profit margins are kept intact. Little else new is gained from them and little attention is paid to them after their endlessly repeated advice based on lobbyists and politics. Who will win out this time?  In the past few decades, the advice has lacked conviction, e.g. what is moderation,  and has been so diluted, it plays little role in how our food supply affects our health.  Enjoy a little history of past advice and forgive me for the cynicism.

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How to Eat (most of the time)

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Do you feel guilty if you do not eat healthy foods? Most of us don’t but there are people who now comprise a group exhibiting a new eating disorder called orthorexia. 

The following article by Mark Bittman may put this eating pattern in a reasonable perspective. The Bottom Line? Enjoy food but make healthy choices (most of the time). This philosophy as stated by Bittman is refreshing – Seems to resemble the traditional diet of the French – the Good Life Savored.

“Eating well is an integral part of their national heritage. To say the French know their food is an understatement and it has been said that even their children are serious “foodies” with two-hour multi course lunches (not uncommon in France)” – all this without guilt. Contrast that with the typical American with a quick drive-through grabbing a burger with fries and eating them in the car with some snacking throughout the day.  The French also maintain their weight with little dieting, calorie counting or snacking.” They simply say: If you eat too much one day, cut back the next day. Pretty simple advice but it seems to work (at least for them).

Source: 30 Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Cuisines. by Steven Jonas, M.D, and Sandra Gordon.

Note: Obesity rates in France are among the lowest in Europe, but have been increasing steadily. The increase has been attributed to an increased adoption of the Western diet or Standard American Diet.

In France, almost 40% are overweight (including obese). You can contrast that with the U.S. at 70% (overweight and obese).

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Dieting in America: An Ongoing Issue

After 150 years of becoming a nation obsessed with weight loss, we still have not grasped the true experience of how difficult it is to lose and more importantly maintain that loss (if it occurs) so many still seek the “quick fix” Of course, the obesity industry likes it that way – success does not help them obtain more business and appears to keep their customers coming back for more promises and sometimes unhealthy claims.

This post addresses with more detail a previous post on a diet time line, tilted Is Dieting Deadfrom Banting to weight loss surgery for the morbidly obese. The obese get blamed for their dilemma which adds to their guilt, whereas, the emphasis should be more focused on not only how hard weight loss is, but keeping it off avoiding the Yo-Yo dieting phenomenon.  This leaves the obesity industry even more gleeful as their customers keep returning. From Obesity Soap in 1903 to the dangerous Tape Worm Diet, the Drinking Man’s Diet, and eating disorders,  the quest furthers our national obsession with weight. An excellent book,The Hundred Year Diet:  America’s Voracious Appetite for Losing Weight, by Susan Yager aptly addresses this issue.

 

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The Tumultuous Sixties: The American Plate 1960 – 1969

Sally J. Feltner, M.S.,PhD

The French Chef

In 1945, an American woman went to Paris with her husband. While there, she attended the Cordon Bleu cooking school and became very fascinated with French cooking. She was eager to share her fascination with others back in America, so when she returned she ended up writing a cookbook. In 1961, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child was heralded by critics and housewives alike. But her TV show, The French Chef, which aired from 1963 to 1967, made her America’s first true celebrity chef. She inspired a generation to see the act of cooking as a joy and an art
In the United States. She alone is credited with restoring our culinary culture after a decade in the 50’s of processed food and a trend away from home cooking. She introduced us to the luxuries of butter, cream and cognac. The newly affluent were eager to try to attain culture and she made it very approachable. We were introduced to Cog au Vin, Boeuf Bourguignon, Mousse au Chocolate and Duck a l’Orange.  The 1960s decade was  stormy,  shaped by the clash of conforming tradition and radical change. WWII rationing was a distant memory; 50s casseroles were old & boring. The late 60’s brought social unrest with growing frustration over the Vietnam War, assassinations of a President (JFK), a civil rights leader (Martin Luther King), and a political candidate (Robert Kennedy).

The New York World’s Fair: 1964

 

“In 1964, international cuisine was scarce in the United States , and few Americans had tasted Indian, Korean or Middle Eastern food. At the 1964 New York World’s Fair they got their chance. With 140 pavilions representing 37 countries on a concourse of nearly 650 acres, taking in the entire fare was difficult with 112 restaurants to choose from, deciding where to eat was even tougher. The exhibition boasted regional foods from Japan and Lebanon, Africa and Spain, Hawaii and Belgium. The Indian pavilion served tandoori and paratha; The Korean pavilion featured kimchi and other garlicky specialties. Jordan’s restaurant offered hummus and shwarma and the Hawaiian pavilion had a luau. Spain’s stunning pavilion complete with an art gallery displaying original works by Goya, Valezquez, El Greco, Miro and Picasso, offered authentic Spanish fare at three restaurants.  the Belgium village had a 1500 seat beer Hall and a breakfast house that introduced the Belgium waffle to America. The fat,  fluffy treat piled high with strawberries and whipped cream was, without a doubt, the fair’s biggest food sensation.”  Bon Appetit, September, 1999.

‘Eggo waffles were invented in San Jose, California, by Frank Dorsa, who developed a process by which waffles could be cooked, frozen, and packaged for consumers. In 1953, Dorsa, along with younger brothers Anthony and Sam, introduced Eggo frozen waffles to supermarkets throughout the United States. Because of the egg flavor, customers called them “Eggos”. Eventually the name became synonymous with the product and, in 1955, the Dorsa brothers officially changed the name to “Eggo”. In 1968, as a means of diversification, the Kellogg Company purchased Eggo.[4] Their advertising slogan—”L’eggo my Eggo”—developed by Leo Burnett in 1972 is well known through their television commercials.” WIkipedia

White House Style: The Kennedy Years

“From the moment Jacqueline and John F Kennedy moved into the White House in 1961, the world could see that a new generation had arrived. With their keen interest in history, literature, the arts, food and entertaining, the youthful, scholarly charismatic Kennedy’s roused stodgy Washington by setting new standards in everything from clothing to table decor and cuisine. The first lady, an avid recipe collector who loved French food, hired French chef Rene Verdon from New York’s Carlyle hotel to serve as executive chef at the mansion.  The Kennedys hosted legendary dinners with dance, concerts, poetry readings, performances of Shakespeare, and other entertainment that showcased the best America had to offer.”

Bon Appetit, September, 1999.

The Revolutions

Millions of people in the world were starving. Technology’s answer was food that was genetically engineered like soy and dwarf rice that had a short growing time, a phenomenal yield and would grow anywhere in Asia. It could produce two crops a year and yielded more rice per plant. This was the beginning of the Green Revolution. People began to eat more consciously after the book by Rachel Carson, Silent Spring was published. Her book spoke of the consequences of using pesticides which led people to be more aware about where food comes,

The Blue Revolution involved aquaculture or fish farming. Both these revolutions have pros and cons, critics and proponents. Aquaculture nevertheless is probably the world’s fastest growing form of food production and some believe that by 2030, aquaculture will supply most the fish people eat.

greenrevolution

Counterculture Cuisine – Hippie Food

Some people took it a few steps further by growing their own fruits, vegetables and herbs, milked farm animals and revolted against white foods – Minute Rice, Cool Whip, instant potatoes, white sugar, white bread. Hippies dominated the culture and brought with them a return to unprocessed foods. They baked their own bread, made peanut butter tahini and hummus and ate brown rice and brown eggs. They brought to our attention cooperatives, vegetarianism, and fresh food markets and health food stores. Food quickly evolved from French cooking to “back to the earth” attitude.

In the 1960’s overabundance, fast foods and processed foods led to the beginnings of the obesity problem in America.  On the diet front, Jean Nidetch and several friends met in her apartment in 1961 to counsel each other about dieting. Her support group eventually became Weight Watchers. The sugar free soft drink Tab is introduced in 1963. In 1967, Twiggy, 5’7” and weighing just 92 pounds becomes a supermodel and influenced thousands of young women to rethink their body image to try to meet her standards. The slogan “thin is in” quite possibly led to a resurgence of eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge-eating that saw its roots in the Victorian days of the 19th century.

 

newton-stewart-health-foods

Sources:  Linda Cvitello, Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People, 2nd Edition.

SPAGHETTIOS

Tackling strands of spaghetti on a fork is a formidable challenge for a toddler which requires a bottle of “Mr. Clean” on hand. So in 1965, Franco-American came up with a solution by inventing a kid-friendly spaghetti for babies. Original shapes were discussed using stars, cowboy shapes, spacemen, but eventually it was decided to use four different sized circles while making the sauce sweeter and cheesier than adult canned pasta for adults.

The pasta was put in a can decorated with a childish drawing of a face with two pasta rings for eyes which appealed to both kids and parents. The ad campaign featured the song, “Uh, oh” Spaghettios” jingle sung by a pop singer, Jimmie Rodgers. Often today’s baby boomers can sing the whole song from memory.

To clarify the Jimmy Rodgers thing – there was a country singer named James Charles “Jimmie” Rodgers who died in 1933. However, the Spaghettios singer was born James Frederick “Jimmie” Rodgers who was born in 1933.

Carolyn Wyman, Better Than Homemade: Amazing Foods That Changed the Way We Eat

A Trivia Timeline

1960 About 35% of all women work outside the home and they average 60 cents for every dollar earned by men.

1960  The civil rights movement begins with lunch-counter sit-ins in Greensboro, N.C.

1961   Sprite hits the market.

1962   John Glenn says that his first meal in space, applesauce through a tube, is nothing to write home about.

1963    Kenner develops the Easy Bake Oven “toy”.  The working oven is introduced at the 1964 toy fair and more than 500,000 are sold the first year at a price of $15.99.

1964   The first Coke in a can appears.

1965    The immigration Act of 1965 begins the influx of millions of people from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Eastern Europe, the Philippines, India, the Middle East, Africa, Mexico and Central and South America.

1966    Doritos, the first tortilla chips, are launched nationally.

1967    Campbell Soup Co. acquires Godiva Chocolate and begins to supply the U.S. from its Reading, Pa. plant.

1967    The National Football League adopts Gatorade as its official drink.

1969   Dave Thomas opens the first Wendy’s in Columbus, Ohio. He has already made $1 million by taking over Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants.  Wendy’s is named for his daughter.

1969   Pringles potato chips are introduced.

Source: The Century in Food: America’s Fads and Favorites, Beverly Bundy

 

 

Is Dieting Dead?

A Diet History Timeline

The picture above is an ad from the early 1900’s attempting to promote the effectiveness of a tonic “that not only cures everything, but adds heft to the figure.” Ironically, a full figure in those times represented wealth and prosperity.

I love timelines – they tell us where we have been and how we evolved to where we are now.   This is a fun timeline on the History of Dieting.  Where can we go from here?

According to the latest issue of Eating Well magazine, October 2020, it is predicting in the future that dieting will be done for good. “We will finally wake up to the fact that following a regimen of temporary deprivation to achieve health or aesthetic goals is an exercise in futility – and that healthy eating is for life and  building ongoing habits, not quick fixes.”

AMEN!!! But first, what is our dieting history?

1850

In England, William Banting consulted Dr. William Harvey for weight loss who recommended he cut most sugar and starch from his diet since foods containing those substances tend to create body fat.  He lost 50 pounds and wrote the first diet book, “Letter on Corpulence Addressed to the Public” in 1862. It was a best seller!

1898

Horace Fletcher loses 42 pounds by advocating that we need to chew food about 32 to 80 times before being swallowed and it should be in liquid form. He later became known as “The Great  Masticator”.

1918

Dr. Lulu Hunt Peters writes the first best selling diet book, “Diet and Health with a Key to the Calorie”.   She promoted calorie counting over our entire life.

1919

The Continental Scale Company produces the first bathroom scale called the “Health O Meter”.

1929

A cigarette advertisement tells women to “reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet”.  Another slogan says:  “Light a Lucky and you’ll never miss sweets that make you fat”.

1930

The “grapefruit diet” also known as “The Hollywood Diet” is promoted which involves eating only 585 calories a day for 18 days with boiled eggs, green vegetables and Melba toast.

1936

Self-proclaimed diet guru Victor Lindlahr reaches thousands via the radio to produce his regular broadcasts entitled “reducing party”. He wrote the book You Are What You Eat, one of the earliest texts of the health food movement in the United States, which sold over half a million copies.

1942

The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company published standard weight tables for “ideal weight”.  The charts used weight, height, frame size, and gender but only used data from life insurance policyholders which biased the conclusions.

1948

Amphetamines were first prescribed for some obese patients but later research determined that these were dangerous.  Amphetamine –like drugs are still used today in a limited fashion.

1958

Saccharin, the first manufactured artificial sweetener is produced and becomes a popular sugar substitute.  It is still used today after years of research that absolved critical reports of its cancer connection. Some doubts still linger.

1961

Weight Watchers was born as a result of Jean Nidetch and several friends who met in her apartment to offer each other support about dieting. Weight Watchers and other diet programs like Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig has turned weight loss into a multi-billion dollar industry. However, the results are dismal. In 1993, the Federal Trade Commission charged that five weight loss programs (including the above) made false and unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of their products. To settle the charges, the companies were required to add dislaimers, like “For many dieters, weight loss is temporary.” By 2002, the FTC released a report suggesting that little had changed.

1967

Twiggy, 5’7” and weighing about 92 pounds becomes a supermodel and icon for the slender female.

1972

Dr. Atkins introduced his first “Diet Revolution”, a high protein, high fat, low carbohydrate diet.

Richard Simmons opens Ruffage and the Anatomy Asylum, a Beverly Hills restaurant and exercise studio.  He quickly becomes known as a fitness and diet guru.

1978

Dr. Herman Tarnover introduces the “Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet”, another version of the high protein, low-carb diet.

1979

The Pritikin Diet answers the trend of the high protein, low – carb diets with a high fiber, very low fat diet.  The system was originally designed for heart patients but became popular for those who followed the newer trend of the low –fat diet approach.

1981

The Beverly Hills Diet is introduced – it recommends eating nothing but fruit for the first 10 days.

1982

Aspartame is introduced as another alternative sugar substitute. It was marketed as NutraSweet and is still used today in many products.

Liposuction is performed in the U.S. for the first time and now becomes a popular cosmetic procedure for the obese.

1983 

Jenny Craig is formed which sells their own line of diet foods and offers diet counseling.   Nutrisystem soon followed.

1988

Oprah Winfrey loses 67 pounds on the liquid diet Optifast.

1993

The Federal Trade Commission charged that five weight loss programs, including Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig) made false and unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of their products. To settle the charges, the companies were required to add disclaimers, like “For many dieters, weight loss is temporary.” By 2002, the FTC released a report suggesting that little had changed.

1994

The FDA mandates that food labels must include detailed information about calories, fat, and fiber. We must thank Dr. Lulu Hunt Peters for this.

1995

“The Zone Diet” is introduced by Dr. Barry Sears. He promotes eating lots of fruits and vegetables and protein, while cutting back on breads and pastas.

1996

It is reported that 40% of nine and ten-year-olds are dieting and trying to lose weight.

2000

Experts are stating that there is now a global epidemic of obesity and that for the first time in history, this number of overweight people equals the number of underfed and undernourished.

2002

Dr. Atkins introduces his second diet book, the “New Diet Revolution” to a new generation of dieters. The Low-carb diet is back after multitudes of diet books promoting low fat diets.

2013

It appears we may have come full circle – we are now promoting cutting sugars and counting calories (again).  We have progressed from low carbohydrate, low fat, and low carbohydrate diets again along with some pretty scary schemes, e.g. the Tapeworm Diet.  Many weight loss books, gimmicks and pills have come and gone over and over again and many still exist, but with no real breakthroughs.

2020 “if dieting makes us fat, what should we do instead to stay healthy and reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other obesity-related conditions?,” asks Dr. Sandra Aamodt, PhD?  She is the author of  Why Diets Make us Fat” and coauthor of “Welcome to Your Brain”and earned her doctorate in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester.

New concepts in weight loss and management are beginning to emerge like mindful eating, weight acceptance, and a different mindset about healthy weights. A new field of genetics called epigenetics may provide some answers that includes how the environment can influence gene expression. A new field of lifestyle medicine focuses not on weight alone but eating for health during a lifetime.

More effort and focus should be made on weight gain prevention and weight loss maintenance if we are finally going to declare dieting “dead”.

 

 

Nutrition News!!

Nutrition News: What You Need to Know

A Rise in Metabolic Syndrome

Half of U.S. adults age 60 or older now have what is called metabolic syndrome – a cluster of symptoms that raise the risks of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Talk to your doctor if you have three or more of the following:

  • A large waist circumference
  • Low HDL (the “good” cholesterol)
  • High triglycerides
  • High blood pressure
  • A high fasting blood sugar leveL

A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE CAN CUT the  RISK!!

DO YOU NEED VITAMIN D? 

The Facts:

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found in two forms, Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). The RDA for women and men is 15 mcg or 600 UL and the UL is 100 mcg (4,000 IU  The primary functions are: needed for absorption of calcium and phosphorus and their utilization in bone formation, and nerve and muscle activity. It also inhibits inflammation and is involved in insulin secretion and blood glucose level maintenance. You may have seen lately the claim that it is needed especially in older adults for the prevention and/or treatment for COVID-19; however, so far there is no solid evidence to support that.

There is some preliminary evidence that it may offer some antiviral responses against the risk of respiratory infections in general and boost the ability of lung cells to fight bacteria and viruses. A large meta analysis)  published in 2017 in BMJ (British Medical Journal) concluded that taking a D supplement with anywhere from less than 800 IU to more than 2000 IU reduced the risk of having at least one respiratory tract infection. Those most deficient saw the most benefits, and there is “no trial that has shown any benefit for giving vitamin D in any population that is getting enough vitamin D,” says F. Michael Gloth, III, M.D., an associate professor of geriatric medicine at Johns Hopkins University Medical School.

About 50 percent of people aged 60 and older take a D supplement and for some, it may useful. About 80% of older adults don’t get enough D in their diet as well as there are few food sources of vitamin D, since we make our own D in the skin.  Because of this, The National Academy of Medicine recommends 600 IU of vitamin D a day up to age 70; 800 IU daily after that. Ultimately, whether to get tested or take a supplement comes down having this discussion with your doctor.

Lifestyle habits can make a difference:

  • Don’t smoke – smoking depletes many vitamins and limit your ability to make vitamin D.
  • People carrying extra weight often have low D levels. Losing that extra weight may boost D levels.
  • Physical activity may increase vitamin D levels.
  • Getting enough sun – just 15 to 20 minutes a day on face, arms, legs, back without sunscreen can give a healthy dose. This can be harder in the winter or if you have darker skin.
  • Diet can help a little – cow’s milk and plant milks are usually fortified as well as some juices and cereals. Fatty fish and egg yolks help.
  • People with bowel disease or metabolic problems can affect D absorption. A simple blood test is often recommended by your doctor. Consult with your doctor who can help you with testing your individual levels, no matter what your age or health status.

Source: CRConsumer Reports On Health, October, 2020

What is the difference betwwen ALA, EPA, and DHA  Omega 3 fatty acids?

Both nuts and fish contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids. They help fight inflammation, boost brain and heart health and ensure healthy fetal development.   However there are three omega-3 fats (ALA, EPA and DHA) that differ in how we acquire them in our diets. The omega-3 from nuts is primarily ALA, while EPA and DHA are found preformed in fish. and algae. Here are the facts:

  • Omega-3 ALA cannot be created in our bodies and must, therefore be acquired from diet or supplements.
  • ALA is good but EPA and DHA are better (EPA for inflammation and DHA for brain/heart health. Your brain is made up of 58% DHA by dry weight.
  • Although we are technically able to synthesize our own EPA and DHA from ALA, we don’t do so very efficiently (in fact, the rates of conversion are quite low at 3% and 19%, respectively).
  • So if you’re vegetarian or simply don’t like fish, you may need to supplement your diet with EPA/DHA from fish or look for vegetarian omega-3 supplements that derive EPA and DHA from algae. Simply, that is where the fish get it.

Source: Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter

Diet Supplements: Beliefs and Reality

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Consumers tend to believe that dietary supplements:

  • Have fewer side effects than prescription drugs.
  • Are approved by the FDA.
  • Will improve and maintain health.
  • Are safe, high quality, and effective.
  • May replace conventional medicines.

DIETARY SUPPLEMENT REALITIES

  • FDA does not approve, test, or regulate the manufacture or sale of dietary supplements.
  • The FDA has limited power to keep potentially harmful diet supplements off the market.
  • Dietary supplements may not have been tested for safety or effectiveness before they are sold.
  • Dietary supplements often do not list side effects, warnings, or drug or food interactions on product labels.
  • Ingredients listed on supplement labels may not include all active ingredients.
  •  Dietary supplements may not relieve problems or promote health and performance as advertised.
  • One of the most serious consequences of supplements results when they are used as a remedy for health problems that can be treated, but not by vitamins or minerals. Vitamin and mineral supplements have NOT been found as yet to prevent or treat heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, premature death, behavioral problems, sexual dysfunction, hair loss, autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, obesity, cataracts or stress. Some such as vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene may be harmful to certain groups of people. If taken, dosages should not be excessive.

Judith Brown, Nutrition Now, 2013.

The recent pandemic brings with it its schemes, misinformation, and claims for combating the virus. The supermarket tabloid covers feature various foods to eat to avoid viral infections.  Always consult with your doctor about these claims. And thanks to Quackwatch,  you can find  a very comprehensive guide about COVID-19 claims HERE.

Life Was Good? The American Plate 1950 – 1959

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Author: Sally J. Feltner, M.S.,PhD

An Attack on Gastronomy

The 1950’s brought a renewed hope for the country after two decades of Depression and War. However, food historians deplore the state of the cuisine during this period – it mainly consisted of processed foods which many blame for this anti-gastronomic desert. In addition, the rise of the fast food industry, i.e. hamburger chains that sprouted up along side the newly build national highway system did not offer any better fare. Freeing Mom from the kitchen seemed to be the dominant theme as appliances and prepared foods became the ‘norm”.

TV Dinners

After WWII, America’s economy boomed, women entered the workforce as never before and food got a little strange. Housewives spent less time in the kitchen, so food companies came to the rescue with a buffet of processed foods. Foods were purchased in a can, package or pouch. Soups were available as liquids or in dry form. Tang landed on supermarket shelves and frozen dinners laid on trays in front of TV sets. TV dinners were introduced in 1953 by Swanson and with a flick of a wrist you could turn back the foil to display turkey in gravy, dressing, sweet potatoes and peas ready in about 30 minutes – all with no dishes to wash.

tv_dinner01

Better Living Through Chemistry

“Better Living through Chemistry” was the slogan of the times along with “I like Ike” referring to the popular Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 5-star general from WWII winning the U.S presidency from 1953 to 1961.
This change in processing came from the demand of the Army during WWII to provide needed ready-to-eat meals. The food industry responded by ramping up new technologies in canning and freeze-drying to feed the troops. The marketing of these foods presented a challenge, however. At first, many of them were less than palatable, so food companies hired home economists to develop fancy recipes and flooded magazines, newspapers and TV with ads to broadcast their virtues. Actually the first cake mix was available in 1931, but was met with disdain due to the use of dehydrated eggs, e.g. Women later would respond more favorably if they could crack their own eggs into the batter so they would feel like they were doing something positive in the kitchen.

June Cleaver

People rushed to buy appliances, houses, cars, dishwashers, washing machines, dryers and backyard barbecue grills and new home freezers.  They also bought television sets in record numbers and watched shows that represented their new idealized lives like Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It to Beaver. Beaver’s mother, June Cleaver was depicted as a housewife freed from household chores and often was serene and perfectly dressed with pearls and high heels pushing a vacuum cleaner and putting meals on the family table, all before solving the family problems.

Fast Food Nation

The birth rate soared and created what is known as the Baby Boomer Generation. Fifty million babies were born from 1945 to 1960. Food marketing shifted to kids with Tony the Tiger and fish sticks leading the campaign. Fast food had its beginnings strengthened in 1955 when Ray Kroc bought a hamburger stand from the McDonald’s brothers in San Bernadino, California. Disneyland opened in 1955 and was so popular they ran out of food on the first day.

mcdonalds-burger1

The Seven Countries Study

In 1958, the American scientist, Ancel Keys started a study called the Seven Countries Study, which attempted to establish the association between diet and cardiovascular disease in different countries. The study results indicated that in the countries where fat consumption was the highest also had the most heart disease. This suggested the idea that dietary fat caused heart disease. He initially studied 22 countries, but reported on only seven: Finland, Greece, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, United States, and Yugoslavia.

The problem was that he left out:

  • Countries where people eat a lot of fat but have little heart disease, such as Holland and Norway and France.
  • Countries where fat consumption is low but the rate of heart disease is high, such as Chile.

Basically, he only used data from the countries that supported his theory.
This flawed observational study gained massive media attention and had a major influence on the dietary guidelines of the next few decades, i.e. cut the fat out of our diets.

 

sevencountries

The First Artificial Sweetener

In the diet world, Saccharin was manufactured in granules and became a popular sugar substitute for dieters. It was first produced in 1878 by a chemist at Johns Hopkins University, but became popular after sugar shortages in WWI and WWII. In the United States, saccharin is often found in restaurants in pink packets as “Sweet’n Low”. It was banned later but it remains on the market today. The basis for the proposed ban was a study that documented an increase in cancer in rats being fed saccharin. The “Delaney clause” of the Food Additive Amendments to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act states that no substance can be deemed safe if it causes cancer in humans or animals. In suspending the proposed saccharin ban, Congress ordered that products containing the popular sweetener must carry a warning about its potential to cause cancer. The FDA formally lifted its proposal to ban the sweetener in 1991 based on new studies, and the requirement for a label warning was eliminated by the Saccharin Notice Repeal Act in 1996.

TIMELINE: 

1951 I Love Lucy debuts on CBS.

1952 The Lipton food company rolls out its dehydrated onion soup that will earn it fame as a base for onion soup mix: 2 envelopes of mix plus 1 cup of sour cream. Lipton eventually prints the recipe, “California Dip” on the package.

1953 Eggo Frozen Waffles are introduced.

1954 Employee Gerry Thomas from the C.A. Swanson Co,  has an idea (although fellow workers nearly laughed him out of the Omaha  plant): package the left-over turkey, along with some dressing, gravy, cornbread, peas and sweet potatoes into a partitioned metal tray, sell it frozen, and consumers could heat it up for dinner. His name for the leftover meal: TV Dinner.

1954 The first Burger King  opens in Miami. A burger is 18 cents, as is a milkshake. The Whopper is introduced in 1957 and sells for 37 cents.

1955 Milkshake-machine salesman, Roy Kroc tries to persuade Dick and Mac McDonald (owner of the original McDonalds in California) to franchise their concept.  They aren’t interested but  tell Kroc to go ahead and try his hand. Kroc opens his first restaurant in Des Plains, ILL., and eventually buys out the McDonalds.

1956 Jif Peanut Butter is introduced.

1956 More than 80 percent of U.S. households have refrigerators. By contrast, only 8 percent of British households have refrigerators.

1957 Better Homes and Gardens prints its first microwave-cooking article.

1957 Margarine sales take the lead over butter.

1958 Eighteen- year-old Frank Carney sees a story in the Saturday Evening Post about the pizza fad among teenagers and college students. With $600 borrowed from his mother, he and his fellow Wichita State classmate, opens the first Pizza Hut in Wichita, KS.